Friday, July 30, 2010

Remember The Maine Sardine

A 1960 Comic Book Published By
The Maine Sardine Council

(All Images Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society.)

What happens to the people in a string of small towns when the industry that has been their largest employer for over a century goes belly up? The citizens of coastal Maine are facing just such a crisis. In April of 2010, the last sardine cannery in the United States, located in tiny Prospect Harbor, was closed. The area called "Midcoast Maine" had relied on the many varieties of tiny silver herring, that when processed were sold as sardines, to provide jobs since 1875, when a New Yorker opened the Eagle Preserved Fish Co. in Eastport.

Vacationland Lives, But Sardineland Is Belly Up.

As many as 400 canneries have, at one time or another, been operating along the rocky shores of Maine. Now the sole survivor has been hooked, gutted, processed, consumed, and thrown in the trash can of history. With it not only the jobs, but the traditions and culture associated with the industry, are gone. A way of life taken for granted for generations vanishes. So what happens next?

Among the hardy residents of Maine, the reaction involves preserving and saluting the past, mourning the sad events of the present, and beginning to plan for the future. Mainers (please don't call them "Mainiacs") are among the most resilient people in the world. Whether it is the long, snowy winters; or the fact that Maine is the most sparsely populated state east of the Mississippi; or that it is geographically isolated, being the only state to border on exactly one other state; for whatever reason, the citizens of Maine are tough customers. The Sardine Extravaganza scheduled for August 2010 proves that one more time.

A couple of poets from the coast have proclaimed 2010 to be The Year of the Sardine. These two seemingly mild-mannered wordsmiths are dead set against the canning industry going gentle into this good night. Even their names are an ode to bravery: they are the fearless Karen Spitfire, and the renegade Gary Lawless. These Bards of Belfast and Brunswick have joined forces to organize a series of events which document and celebrate the history of the Pine Tree State's sardine industry.

Their blog,, is the pride of "Sardinistas" from Bath to Bucksport and back again. The site has even spawned a book: Sardine Songs/Herring Hymns collects the writings and images of the many contributors to the blog. Spitfire and Lawless will be on board for the Wayne-Cary Memorial Library's Sardine Poetry Night on July 30. The next day the two will be signing the anthology at the Maine State Museum's All About Sardines festival. Lastly, these two versifiers are trawling for chums to join them at the Herring Gut Learning Center (!) located at 59 Factory Road in Port Clyde to celebrate the village's sardine history and culture.

Up the coast at the Belfast Free Library an exhibit focusing on the city's now closed Stinson's Seafood factory will be on view throughout the month of August. The show will include photos, books, ephemera, and memorabilia from the Belfast Historical Society and Penobscot Marine Museum. Also on display will be original paintings by Barbara Marie and Julie Cyr, celebrating the sardine and the fishing industry. On Tuesday, Aug. 10 the library will host a "Fish Forever" program, including a sardine/herring industry slide show.

All this is just the appetizer for the feast that is Belfast's Sardine Extravaganza on August 21. This day long fair is a salute to fish, fishermen, and fish packers, including a live performance of an improvisational play, For Love of Herring. This one will lure in an audience from all over the State, and bait them into falling hook, line, and sinker, for those shining silver fish. The industry may have breathed its last, but these proud Mainers won't sink into depression. Somehow they'll find a way to fight the tide of unemployment and stay afloat.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

John Ward And The "Infinite Variability Of Performance"

John Milton Ward "prefers to have a copy of every extant score of a work when possible, and never believes that a second copy of a published work is a duplicate until it has been compared measure for measure by measure. His conviction that publishers frequently made internal changes in scores has been validated repeatedly."

Ward, the internationally acclaimed musicologist, retired as the William Powell Mason Professor of Music at Harvard University in 1985. In the twenty-five years since then he has amassed and curated, on behalf of the Harvard Libraries, what is now recognized as one of if not the most important and vast collections of original music and dance material in the world.

John Ward and His Magnificent Collection, which has just been published in an attractively produced limited edition, is a celebratory collection of appreciative essays about, and an interview with, this very special man who, now ninety-three, continues to be robustly passionate about the collection of music and related material.

Bibliophiles strive to collect every copy of a work of literature to track textural changes. John Ward insisted on the same careful attention to variation in musical scores. The difference is that, while an author may make a few minor or major changes to their text over time, a piece of music is different every time it is performed; it can be repeated note for note but can never replicate the performer's or conductor's mental state. Music changes through time, adaptation to cultural milieu, through the interpreter. Sometimes changes to a score occur simply to make it accessible to audiences. While he would surely never allow it, the operas of Wagner are routinely truncated so that an audience can enjoy them from beginning to end within their lifetimes.
John Ward at home, October 2009. Credit: Gordon Hollis.
This phenomenon is crystallized in Ward's dictum of "the infinite variability of performance." What it meant to him on a practical level was an insistence on collecting every score and piece of material associated with it for Harvard as keys to understanding music from the past. Ward was and remains one of the foremost historians of music and the history of a musical score is, to him, amongst other things, the history of the culture from which it was born.

Hence, the performer's or conductor's scribbled notes on a score offer crucial documentation to  a musical work's evolution.

The book, a warm and delightful festschrift, opens with editor Gordon Hollis' interview with Ward and then divides into three sections that encapsulate Ward's life, contributions, and accomplishments with appreciative essays by leading scholars and members of the rare book trade who have worked with Ward over the years to assist in his quest for scores and related anything that can shed light on a musical work.

1. Interview with John Ward by Gordon Hollis.
2. John Ward as Educator, Collector and Curator

Sir Curtis Price, Origins of the King’s Theatre Collection
Joseph G. Price, An Innocent Bystander.
John and Jude Lubrano, La Chasse et Le Professeur.

Carl B. Schmidt, A Personal Recollection - John Milton Ward as Educator
Christel Wallbaum, Letter to John Ward.

3. The Collections

Andrea Cawelti, Introduction to the John Milton and Ruth Neils Ward Collections at Harvard University
Virginia Danielson, A Passage to India. John Ward and the Whole World of Music
Lisa Cox, A French Journey.

4. The Ward Collections at Work

Philip Gossett, Il barbiere di Siviglia and the John Milton and Ruth Neils Ward Collection
 at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Morris S. Levy, From Vienna to Naples to Cambridge. The Ward Collection, Robert von Gallenberg, and Furio Camillo
Hugh MacDonald, Bizet’s La Jolie Fille de Perth in Print and in Performance
Lowell Lindgren, Handel’s Significance within The King’s Theatre Collection of John Milton and Ruth Neils Ward
Richard MacNutt, The First Editions in Vocal Score of Weber’s Der Freischütz and Euryanthe
D. W. Krummel, Lutebooks on the Loose.

While this volume is a must-have for musicologists and collectors of music, its story of a particular collector in a particular field of collection should be of keen interest to book collectors no matter what their individual area of collection. Ward's philosophy of collecting can apply to all, and the fact of his philosophy highlights the importance to collectors of anything to form their own to guide and provide an overarching context to their efforts.

John Ward and His Magnificent Collection. Edited by Gordon Hollis. Beverly Hills, CA: Golden Legend, 2010. Hardbound in cloth. 168 pp. Black and white photo-illustrations. Limited to 200 copies. $75. Exclusively distributed by Golden Legend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Have Books, Will Travel

What do you do when you lose the lease on your brick-and-mortar book store due to a skyscraping rent increase but still have books in your blood - and on your shelves?

If you're Dave Simpson of Lafayette Book Store in California's Bay Area, you slap four wheels on your shop, turn the key, and drive off, spreading books hither and yon, like Johnny Applebook.

On July 29, 2010 the Lafayette Book Store will close - and immediately re-open as the Layfayette Book Store, V-8 division. Dave bought a bookmobile, Big Blue, that was decommissioned from the Ypsilanti (Michigan) District Library, and drove it from Lansing, MI to the Bay Area the week of June 20, 2010.

The Bay Area Bookmobile, as Simpson's enterprise is called, proudly bills itself as an "Independent Bookstore on Wheels." Bookstores don't get more indie than that.

"We'll be popping up at farmers markets and festivals and schools and book clubs and wherever we're invited all over the Bay Area, selling a selection of new or used books, customized for each appearance," Dave says.

They've set up a Facebook page ("The Bay Area Bookmobile"), and, presumably, a Twitter account, to keep local citizens, fans, and patrons abreast (abook?) about what's going on, where they'll be, etc.

Inside Big Blue, shelves soon to be full to bursting.

Now that the Layfayette Book Store has become strictly off-site, their off-site events program, which has been running for ten years, should become even more, ahem, outta sight, providing bookseller services for conferences, conventions, seminars, fundraisers, festivals, book fairs, and more. From coordinating author signings large and small to providing a collection of hand-picked books for a custom bookstore in any subject area, they handle all the logistical and intellectual considerations for a wide variety of events. It's a fascinating and imaginative approach to the challenges of bookselling in today's digital universe.

And, I think, a novel way to introduce books to children. I'm working myself into a reverie, imagining a combo bookmobile/ice cream truck that drives down residential streets, rings its bell or plays its theme melody, and kids and moms run out to grab a Good Humor and a good book.

Dave Simpson has become the Paladin of the book world, a bookslinging knight for hire, entering the lives of those who seek his assistance to make the world a little better, one book at a time.

"Paladin, Paladin where do you roam?"
"I roam where the books call 'cause we lost our brick home."


Thanks to LISNews for the lead.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ron Rosenbaum At Slate Is Wrong About Nabokov's Pale Fire

by Stephen J. Gertz

Portrait frontispiece by Andrew Hoyem for the 1994 Arion Press edition of Pale Fire

He's over the moon about "a new Nabokovian objet d'art that is likely to touch off the next big Nabokov controversy. One that takes us deeper into the heart of perhaps the greatest novelist of the past century..."

And what is it that will ignite this Nabokovian controversy? His friend Mo Cohen, publisher of Gingko Press, is issuing a "stand alone" edition of the poem Pale Fire that lies at the center of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Pale Fire. 

"With the publication of 'Pale Fire' as a stand-alone poem, Mo was throwing down the gauntlet, challenging the world's most avid Nabokov readers and critics, telling them for 50 years, most of them had gotten a central aspect of, arguably, his greatest work flat wrong....

"...All the excellences of the poem's complex, Persian-rug pleasures suggest perhaps it deserves to be stolen back...and looked at as a pseudonymous work of Nabokov's that he had hidden inside the Russian doll construction of the novel...

"...the poem deserves to be read on its own terms, solus rex to use a Nabokovian phrase. Standing regally alone. Allowed to convey its own meanings once it left the author's pen. An in a sense that's what this new gesture, this new incarnation of the poem 'Pale Fire' Mo was sending me was. 'Pale Fire' freed from the shackles of, or, if you prefer, the delicately woven web of Pale Fire. 'Pale Fire' free at last to be a poem on its own."

There's just one problem. The poem 'Pale Fire' was "freed from the at last to be a poem on its own," extracted from the novel and published in its first separate edition in 1994, by Arion Press in San Francisco.

Title page to the First Separate Edition of Pale Fire (the poem).

Moreover, it was printed to appear as the fictional manuscript is described in the novel, on index cards.

Arion Press publisher, Andrew Hoyem, lays it out in the book's colophon:

Furthermore, Hoyem wrote an essay, published by Arion Press in 1997, in which he makes a strong case for the poem as an important and distinct work; exactly Ron Rosenbaum's point - thirteen years afterward.

"The poem is not regarded as an independent work, for it is embedded in a novel that takes its title from that of the poem and is a part of the fiction in verse, yet it is self-contained and unreliant upon the rest of the is possible to read the poem by itself and to recognize its greatness as a distinct literary work" (Andrew Hoyem).

It is difficult for me to believe that Rosenbaum, a rabid fan of Nabokov, was not aware of this earlier, separate edition of the poem 'Pale Fire.' He has spoken to Dmitri Nabokov, the novelist's son and literary executor, and to Brian Boyd, the novelist's biographer. They were quite aware of the existence of the Arion Press edition; Hoyem, in his essay, writes about communicating with them. Dmitri wrote to him after receiving a copy.

"It is very attractive, including the little marsupial," he wrote, the marsupial in question the separate edition of the poem that accompanied Arion's edition of the novel.

And Brian Boyd wrote:

"Thank you very much for for your wonderful edition...I pore over it with is designed with imagination, wit, and scrupulous care."

It may be that Rosenbaum is fudging a bibliographical point. He's careful not to call this new Gingko Press edition the first separate edition; he refers to it as a "stand alone edition," by which he may mean that the prior Arion Press edition was not meant to "stand alone" by itself independently from the novel with which it was issued as a two-volume set. But "stand alone" is imprecise and far from accurate.

Pale Fire (the poem) standing alone.

Pale Fire (the poem) standing alone with its companions

What remains puzzling about this is that every Nabokov fan on the planet was likely aware of the Arion Press first separate edition of 1994 and yet I don't recall headlines heralding a new Nabokov controversy as a result of its printing. And Hoyem's essay has been around for thirteen years, plenty of time for Nabokov critics and scholars to engage in a literary food fight. There was none that I can recall.

Is it possible that the only controversy here is that Ron Rosenbuam may be shilling for his friend, Mo Cohen of Gingko Press?

Bibliographers take note: The upcoming Gingko Press edition (November 2010) of the poem 'Pale Fire' by Vladimir Nabokov should be cataloged as the First Separate, Independently Published Edition to distinguish it from the Arion Press First Separate Edition that accompanied the novel as a two-volume set.

Images courtesy of David Brass.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cedric Chivers, Art vs. Library Bindings, And The New York Bookbinders Boycott

Vellucent binding by Dorothy Carleton Smyth. Chivers Catologue XCIX.
(Image courtesy of David Brass).

In The Graphic Arts and Crafts Year Book for 1908, a curious article appeared:

The "Vellucent" Process: A New Method Of Decoration For Bound Books. (After Cedric Chivers). 

It reads like a press release.

"Some years ago a remarkable method of decoration for the binding of books originated in the fertile mind of Mr. Cedric Chivers of Bath, England, and after making several experiments, which gave promise of future successful employment of artists with fresh ideas of treatment, designs were prepared for binding to be produced under the required conditions. Specially selected skins of clear unstretched vellum were the simple and legitimate means employed, and after a few further trials and experiments, the result proved the new method to be wider in scope and more varied in its range of artistic possibilities than any previously attempted.

"Since the art of gilding leather was introduced into Europe from the east, about the year 1740, by the Venetians, nothing new in the external decoration of books has been achieved which gives such endless opportunities for beautiful and permanent decoration as does the transparent vellum, or 'Vellucent,' method…"

Chivers (1853 - 1929), a seven-term mayor of Bath, first exhibited and patented his "vellucent" method of decorative bookbinding in 1898.

And just what is the "vellucent" process of decorative binding?

Chivers Catalogue XCIX,  rear board.

Chivers' press flack continues:

"...The designs were first painted or drawn in colors with as full a palette or as subdued a richness of coloring as the artist chose to employ. Various iridescent materials and precious metals, pared to the thinness of paper or even of gold leaf, according to the fancy of the designer, were often introduced to enhance the richness of the scheme; mother-o'-pearl, shell, beetles' wings, these and other beautiful materials were utilized in the carrying out of the designs with the greatest felicity of effect. The transparent vellum was then laid upon the surface of the painting and the two pressed together till they became indisseverable. Gold tooling was now superimposed upon the surface of the subcutaneous coloring, often with results surprising in their richness and beauty. Indeed, the vellum itself, though of perfect transparency, has, from its delicate warmth of hue, the quality of rendering luminous and reconciling colors otherwise difficult to combine harmoniously in juxtaposition, its appearance being that of a beautiful enamel-like glaze. The whole field of color, of iridescence, is thus open to the artist who elects to decorate books bound in 'Vellucent.'"

In short, an artist would paint on a super-thin surface medium, and a sheet of vellum, shaved to translucent thinness, was laid over it, with the now indivisible pieces bound over boards.

What was significant about this method was that "for the first time in the history of the bibliopegistic art the actual work of the artist, undiluted by a translation through the hands of mechanics, is here visible in the decoration of the book" (Chivers, Books In Beautiful Bindings [Chivers Catalogue]).

 Vellucent binding, artist unidentified, 1904. 
(Image courtesy of Rulon-Miller).

Who were the artists? Cherchez la femme.

“In his large bindery at Portway, Bath, Chivers employed about forty women for folding, sewing, mending, and collating work, and in addition, five more women worked in a separate department, to design, illuminate, and colour vellum for book decoration, and to work on embossed leather. These five were Dorothy Carleton Smyth, Alice Shepherd, Miss J.D. Dunn, Muriel Taylor, and Agatha Gales. Most Vellucent bindings were designed by H. Granville Fell, but the woman most frequently employed for this kind of work was probably Dorothy Carleton Smyth” (Marianne Tidcombe, Women Bookbinders 1880-1920, p. 86).

“Smyth [1880-1933] was born in Glasgow, the daughter of a jute manufacturer. She studied art in Manchester and then attended the Glasgow School of Art from 1895 until 1905. Her stained glass piece Tristan and Iseult was exhibited at the International Exhibition in 1901, and in 1903 an anonymous female patron paid for Smyth to study in Europe. At first Smyth was best known as a portraitist, particularly for her sketches of theatre personalities. Later she specialised in theatre costume working in London, Paris and Sweden. She designed costumes for several of the Shakespearean Festivals held in Stratford-upon-Avon, beginning in 1906. Smyth was appointed Principal of Commercial Art at Glasgow School of Art in 1914, and began to concentrate more on teaching than costume design. However, in 1916 she designed costume and decoration for the Quinlan Opera Company's world tour. In 1933 Smyth was appointed as the first woman director of the School of Art, but died before she could take up the post” (The Glasgow Story).

Thought not mentioned above, the most celebrated of Chivers' group of women designers was acclaimed illustrator Jessie M. King.

Chivers Catalogue XCIX, another copy.
(Image courtesy of Jonkers).

Chivers' best friend, the anonymous writer for The Graphic Arts And Crafts Yearbook, continues their gushing review, establishing vellucent binding as the greatest thing in the world, later and presumably exceeded only by Otto Frederick Rohwedder's invention of the automatic industrial bread slicer in 1927, nineteen years after this article appeared.

"It may be claimed that the color effects produced, seeing the nature of the materials employed, exceed in brilliancy and beauty anything in the whole range of artistic expression yet achieved. A book when complete will stand constant use and everyday wear and tear; it has neither excrescences nor protuberances; is absolutely flat, smooth, and pleasant to handle. The design, however beautiful and precious, is permanently secured from dirt and damp in one of the strongest and best materials ever used for the binding of a book. The iridescent and other materials used have been the subject of the most interesting experiments. In spite of the novelty and seeming incongruity of the idea, step by step, each new introduction was carefully thought out, and a trial made of its adaptability under translucent vellum, Mr. Chivers adopting a wise policy of restraint in allowing only those effects entirely satisfactory to the trained eye of the artist to be accepted for use...

Vellucent binding by Jessie M. King. Chivers Catalogue XVIII.
(Image courtesy of Jonkers).

"The 'Vellucent' method… allows of the utmost freedom of conception compatible with the tenets of good surface decoration; and, since by reason of its nature, greater liberty of pictorial treatment is legitimised, the field both for design and color becomes almost limitless.

"It has sometimes been charged that external book decoration could not legitimately be classed in the graphic arts, but if graphic delineation on flat surfaces be a correct technical definition, then this "Vellucent" method warrants its inclusion.

"The experiments undertaken and carried out with success in the new forms of decorative binding will appeal to everyone interested in the development of modern art; and it is not too much to affirm that the invention of the 'Vellucent' process inaugurates a new epoch in the history of bookbinding. The full glories of color hitherto denied as embellishment: to the book-cover—the folding-doors of the literary treasure-house—are now made not only possible, but eminently and especially legitimate and appropriate.

"It is difficult indeed not to become enthusiastic over the idea of the gorgeous aspect of a wealthy booklover's library of "Vellucent"-bound books, which may become at the same time a cabinet of works of art, each one of his choice and rare volumes bearing an unique specimen of the book decorator's skill, and embellished with the most varied and brilliant effects.

"Here is given unlimited opportunity for the artist, while his work remains unassailable from the point of view of the binder as a craftsman."

And so ends this over-the-top, wet-dream in print for Chivers. Though vellucent bindings are, indeed, exquisite, I smell payola. The dream, it appears, was unfortunately fleeting and at risk of failure.

Vellucent binding by H. Granville Fell.
Chivers Catalogue LVII.

Chivers strove for the highest quality of artistic binding. It, apparently, did not pay off. He established a second bindery, in New York City, in 1904, to cash in on a more financially rewarding end of bookbinding.

"Chivers brought some able craftsmen with him to New York, and they did occasional credible pieces of work for exhibit; but about the time when Chivers developed "oversewing," that peculiarly American stitch by which the folds are cut off and the sections united by interlocking stitches through holes pierced near the edges, his firm began to concentrate on library binding and subsequently became one of the leading library binders in the east. Despite the growing ranks of American bibliophiles, binders such as Chivers... realized that the 'big money' lay in binding for the burgeoning library movement" (Lawrence S. Thompson, Hand Bookbinding in the United States, p. 100).

Chivers received a U.S. patent for his oversewing or stab-stitch method for library bindings earlier in 1904. Soon, Cedric Chivers was binding for up to 500 libraries in the U.S. The method is now standard for rebinding library books (though machines have replaced the handwork).

And Chivers soon ran into  problems with the American labor movement and city politics; he was the subject of a Brooklyn investigation and bookbinders union boycott.

From Library Journal, Volume 33, 1908:

"George Roger, being duly sworn, says that...on Friday, March 20, 1908, at a conference with Frank P. Hill, chief librarian of the Brooklyn Public Library, and three Trustees of said library...he was introduced to one Cedric Chivers. The said Cedric Chivers, who is a subject of the King of England, and a member of the Town Council of Bath, England, is in the business of bookbinding, more particularly binding for libraries and similar institutions. When, at said conference on March 20, 1908, he was asked if it were not a fact that he received work from the New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries and sent it to Bath, England to be bound, admitted that such was the case."

Chivers Catalogue XCIX, front board.
Note variation between this and the copy above.
(Image courtesy of David Brass).

It gets more interesting. In his Brooklyn bindery, Chivers employed eighty workers. And the local bookbinding union was not happy.  In another sworn and notarized affidavit published in the same volume of Library Journal, we learn that

"The said Cedric Chivers does practically all the binding of all the libraries of Greater New York, sending the books to Bath, England where they are bound and returned to this city to be distributed among the various branch libraries. On the above mentioned Wednesday, July 1, 1908, this deponent appealed to said Cedric Chivers to have the work referred to done in this city, so that many American citizens, who are idle through no fault of their own, might obtain work. He said he could not afford to, as he could do the said work with more profit to himself in Bath, England, than if said work was bound in this city."

Oh, the city of Bath loved Cedric Chivers.

"Cedric Chivers was one of the leading employers in Bath between the Wars [Boer and WWI]. Influenced by his Trade Unionist activities in London, 1891, he was an employer ahead of his time" (Bath and Its Intellectuals).

Oh yes indeed. He may be called one of the Fathers of Outsourced Off-Shore Manufacturing. For all his sympathy toward labor and unionism, when it came down to hard dollars and cents he spurned the higher-paid laborers of his new home, exported the raw work to his English and lower-paid employees, then imported the finished work duty-free. Slick. No wonder all work stopped in Bath during his funeral procession though the city. He was one of its foremost employers and Bath's favorite son, Mr. Popularity.

He had an open shop in New York and didn't care whether an employee was union or not. He had broken no laws, only the trust of the New York bookbinders union and, hence, ran afoul of New York politics. Chivers was still operating in Brooklyn as late as 1921.

It appears that decorative art binding was left at the altar when Chivers ran off to the United States to pursue Lady Greenback. But no such thing occurred. Chivers, from the evidence, continued with vellucent decorative art binding in his Bath workshops from the time of his arrival in New York in 1904 through 1908, the date of the  advertorial in The Graphic Arts and Crafts Yearbook, financed by his excellent, lucrative yet ethically questionable library work, until, apparently, the art nouveau designs used for his vellucent bindings became passé by end of the decade and demand fell off a cliff. Yet decorative binding was clearly in his heart, and vellucent bindings were in his soul. And library money was in his pocket. He had his cake, ate it, and lived happily ever after.

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen.
Vellucent binding, artist unidentified, c. 1900.

It would be easy to cast Chivers as a villain in what seems like the hypocrisy of a pro-union but opportunistic businessman betraying one union for another, strictly for increased profit, effectively  pitting one nation's local trade union against another nation's. Yet there's more to the story;  Chivers' side of it.

"I was invited by a number of the chief librarians of the United States to establish myself in this country for the purpose of binding public library books according to methods and patents which had effected great economies in England and its colonies.

"About four years ago I started a bookbinding business in New York, and immediately employed a considerable staff of Brooklyn workpeople. My success has enabled me to steadily increase this staff, and they find constant employment with me, up to the present time without a day's loss of wages.

Vellucent binding, design by H. Granville Fell. 
Fell was also the illustrator of this Chapman & Hall edition from 1897. 
Winner the First International Studio Exhibition.
Twleve copies were bound thus, at £5 5s each. 
Chivers Catalogue LVIII.  
(Image courtesy of

"But my business has grown so rapidly that I have had more work than it has been possible for me thus far to educate a staff to accomplish here. I spite of one removal, I am now negotiating to enlarge my present premises. All this has rendered it desirable, in order to give prompt service to the libraries, to temporarily avail myself of my English workshops. This temporary help during the costly period of training and establishment here has enabled me to do work at less cost than would otherwise be possible.

"I explained to the trade union delegation when they called at my bindery that having a part of the work done abroad was only a temporary expedient, and that I am rapidly training workers into my special methods and enlarging my premises, in order to do the work in this country...As to the moral and legal rights of the case, I have always understood that since the Congress left it open for libraries to buy and have their work done abroad it was with the special intention that the kind of business I have been doing should be done so that educational institutions should be advantaged."

Chivers continues, with enormous ego, enumerating the many awards and medals his library bindings have won, glorifying their incredible durability and the thousands of dollars saved by public libraries which, because of said durability, can cut back on necessary copies bought by one third.

In the end, a tech-migration brought new bookbinding methods to the U.S.,  men and women who needed work found it and were educated in a trade, the bookbinding union increased its membership,  public libraries were happy, and Chivers of Brooklyn stayed in business. 

Fairy tales can come true.


My Journey Back To Faulkner's Mississippi

The Lincoln Statue At Bascom Hall,
University of Wisconsin-Madison.

(Image Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison)

One of the most important tools of a great teacher can't be learned, doesn't come with practice, and won't ever be found on a resume or a list of publications. It is a passionate love for the subject matter he or she teaches. I was lucky enough to have a teacher like that, and it happened purely by chance.

Long before the advent of online registration, students (at least at the Midwestern university I attended) had to walk all over campus, and sign up for classes in the main building of each and every department. This was no mean feat on a huge campus (933 acres!) in the bone-chilling cold of a Wisconsin winter, especially for undergrads who usually took classes in four or five different departments.

A Student Enjoys
Wisconsin's Winter Wonderland.

(Image Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Registration times were decided based on a random drawing of the first letter of the student's last name. Coming in last, as I did one unlucky year, meant it was almost certain my first-choice classes would already be full before I even began that bone-chilling journey. That all-important fact was something I couldn't find out until I walked several miles on frozen feet. When I learned I had to figure out a whole new class list, I bravely buttoned my coat, pulled on my hat and mittens, wrapped a scarf over my cheeks, chin and nose, and started my refrigerated trek all over again. I backtracked and signed up for my second choice science class, and another in history. Then it was on to the English Department, to choose classes in my major.

Madison's Winter Only Lasts
From Late October until Late April.

(Image Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Finding out every English class I wanted to take was closed was just too much for me. My disappointment, despair, and frozen fingers and toes collaborated to produce a meltdown. I was overcome by an uncontrollable crying jag. As I collapsed in a heap in the hallway of the department, a miracle happened. A Teaching Assistant--a grad student given the lowly task of assigning students to classes--stopped and asked if I needed help. Boy did I ever! Within five minutes my knight in shining armor had chosen three classes for me and signed me up. I didn't know or care what they were--my registration was done. I could go home and thaw out.

Professor Betsy Draine and her husband,
Professor Michael Hinden.

(Image Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison)

One of the classes my savior chose for me was "American Novelists 1914 to 1945," taught by Professor Betsy Draine. Her unabashed passion for Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Djuna Barnes was topped only by her out-and-out romance with William Faulkner. Faulkner may be greatest novelist of that era, and he is certainly the most difficult. But Professor Draine magically made The Sound And The Fury and Light In August as accessible as oxygen. She somehow transported her Wisconsin classroom directly to Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi. It may have been below zero outside, but during those three hours a week, a professor and twenty students were languid from the steamy heat of a Southern summer. I never again felt so entirely within a fictional world as I did then. Faulkner's Mississippi is a place I've never been, but I know every inch of it like a native.

William Faulkner at
the University of Virginia, 1957.
(Image Courtesy of University of Virginia)

All of these memories came rushing back to me when I read about a man I'm willing to bet takes his Virginia classroom to Yoknapatawpha, too. University of Virginia (UVA) professor Stephen Railton has just completed a new website Faulkner at Virginia: An Audio Archive. He has created digitized, streaming audio files of the lectures and speeches given by the Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author when he served as the first Writer-in-Residence at the university in 1957 and 1958.

Faulkner in the
Classroom at UVA.

(Image Courtesy of University of Virginia)

Over the course of those two years, Faulkner spoke at 36 different public events and answered over 1,400 questions from audience members, according to the UVA collection. His speeches were recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, carried most often by two members of the English department, Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner. Thanks to these two teachers and Professor Railton, anyone with an Internet connection has access to over 28 hours of Faulkner’s softly lilting Southern drawl. In the collection, Faulkner reads excerpts form his novels, and the complete text of several of his short stories, as well as discussing the creation of his body of work.

A Caricature of Faulkner From The Cover
of the University's Literary Magazine.

(Image Courtesy of University of Virginia)

Professor Railton has also painstakingly transcribed every audio file, so that nearly every word can be understood by the listener, despite the sometimes poor quality of the decades old reel-to-reel tapes. Also on the website are several revealing essays written by teachers and students who vividly recount their time in and out of the classroom with Faulkner. Dozens of photographs and newspaper articles from Faulkner's two year tenure at the university round out the archive.

William Faulkner Enjoying His
Pastime (Besides Drinking) In Virginia.

(Image Courtesy of University of Virginia)

Listening to the tapes, reading the essays and articles, and gazing upon the photos will take any online visitor deep into the unique world of William Faulkner. For me this was a true remembrance of things past. For I have already walked down the dusty roads and through the tall grass of Yoknapatawpha County. I visited Mississippi from a desk in a Wisconsin classroom. Professor Betsy Draine took me there in the palm of her hand.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Secrets of King Tut's Tomb Revealed Online

 King Tut's First Gig As A Stand-up Comic,
Batman Confidential #26 (April 2009).

(Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.)

In 2009, almost 90 years after the discovery of his final resting place (and over 3,000 years after his burial) the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun was still famous enough to inspire a comic book villain and a traveling exhibition of relics from his tomb. He's so familiar that he's known by a nickname, "King Tut." But one Egyptologist believes that although we think we know all about our favorite Pharaoh, in fact his tomb still holds many mysteries.

Howard Carter And An Assistant
Examine Tut's Innermost Coffin
, 1922.
Photo By Harry Burton.
(Image ©Griffith Institute. Used by Permission.)

Jaromir Malek is an archivist at one of the finest Egyptology libraries in the world, the Griffith Institute, located in the basement of the Sackler Library at the University of Oxford. The prize collection here contains the notes, diaries, and photographs of Howard Carter, the Englishman who discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922. Amazingly, when Malek began working at the institute, he learned that fewer than one-third of the artifacts recovered from the tomb had been adequately studied and documented. This was a situation he found "unacceptable," so he began a project to "make sure that all of the excavation records are available to anyone who is interested."

A Statue Of Anubis, The God Of The Dead.
Photo By Harry Burton.
(Image ©Griffith Institute. Used by Permission.)

Malek began his database, Tutankhamun: Anatomy Of An Excavation, in 1993. It was an inspired idea, but also a huge undertaking. A total of 5,398 objects were found in the tomb. The artifacts themselves are located at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, but Carter's notes and photographs were donated to the Griffith Institute, and nearly forgotten. And we're not talking about just a couple of spiral notebooks: Carter documented his finds on more than 3,500 densely written cards. And more than 1,000 images of the excavation were taken by the expedition's photographer, Harry Burton. There were also close to 60 maps and plans of the excavation site, and hundreds of pages in Carter's journals and diaries. Adding to the difficulties, many of these items were extremely fragile.

Howard Carter, On Left, Oversees
the Removal
of Artifacts From King Tut's Tomb.

Photo By Harry Burton.
(Image ©Griffith Institute. Used by Permission.)

As of July 2010, about 98% of the archive has been posted online. And this despite the fact that, due to lack of funding, Malek and his colleagues had to do the entire project in their spare time. Malek believes the are several reasons why so much of Howard Carter's documentation has been neglected by scholars. The sheer size of the find was daunting: Carter spent nearly 10 years cataloging it. And Carter died in 1939, only seven years after the excavation was completed, before he could publish all of his writings. "He started working on the final publication, but he was physically and mentally exhausted after a very hard 10 years," says Malek.

A Shrine Which Held
King Tut's Internal Organs.

Photo by John Ross.
(Image ©Griffith Institute. Used by Permission.)

Malek decided that the only way to be sure Carter's discoveries were studied was to post the entire archive online. "We can't make Egyptologists work on the material if they are not inclined to do so," he says. "But we could make sure that all of the excavation records are available ... then there will be no excuse." Malek not only wants to bring the archive to the general public, but also hopes to put "moral pressure" on Egyptologists, to goad them into studying this momentous collection. "Tutankhamun's is the only royal tomb... that wasn't gutted by [grave] robbers. If we want to know what an Egyptian pharaoh took with him to the afterlife," he says, "it's the only one we can look at. John H. Taylor, who looks after the Egyptian mummies collection at the British Museum in London, agrees. "A lot of the objects will be very unfamiliar to people. What is needed is for schools and people with a more general interest to have access to the basic data and see what's there."

The Sandals Found In Tut's Tomb.
Photo By Harry Burton.
(Image ©Griffith Institute. Used by Permission.)
André Veldmeijer of the PalArch Foundation in Amsterdam describes the online archive as "one of the best things in Egyptology". He has firsthand knowledge of the value of the original photographs taken of the exhumation. Carter and his colleagues, he states, "were the first to see the objects, and therefore saw them in the best condition possible." Veldmeijer looked to the online archive to help him with a study of the shoes found in the tomb. A trip to Cairo revealed that a pair of sandals from the excavation had deteriorated into "an oozing black mess." In the Carter photographs, the same pair was shown in pristine condition, with the leather, gold leaf, and beadwork intact. "It's a good example of how you can get so much more from archaeological research," he notes. "So many excavations have not been properly published."

The Interior of Tut's Tomb, 1922.
Photo By Harry Burton.
(Image ©Griffith Institute. Used by Permission.)

Jaromir Malek believes that the photographs and letters he has scanned into the online archive are the only documents which show the tomb as it was upon discovery. "It seems like just a pile of things, but there is a can see what the thinking behind it was. Nothing in the tomb was accidental. We will not be able to understand the tomb as a unit until all of the objects are properly explained." He hopes the archive's documents will be studied by both scholars and curious armchair archaeologists. "This doesn't belong to Egyptologists only, or even to Egypt only. Everybody should have the right to see what's there."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Trend For Signing Books: Autograph In Blood!

Sachin Tendulkar.

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith.

Red Smith (1905-1982), the great American sportswriter, would probably shake his head in wonder, then return to default position - “The natural habitat of the tongue is the left cheek” - with news of a new book signed by the author with his own blood. Traditionally, bloodletting  occurs while writing, not afterward.

Sachin Tendulkar, the ace cricketeer for Team India who is considered to be the greatest batsman in the history of the sport, has written his autobiography. Tendulkar Opus will be issued in a limited edition of ten copies signed by Tendulkar on the limitation page in his blood. Publication is scheduled for February 2011.

Each copy of the sang edition measures ten square feet, weighs 87 lbs., 9 oz., and is 852 pages long. That's not a book, that's a slab. They should break a champagne bottle over the first copy at the launch party.

Each copy will cost 75 - yes, 75 - THOUSAND dollars. The proceeds will go to charity. A trade edition of 1,000 copies sans sang will be available for between $2,000 - $3,000 each. Shipping and handling probably extra. A lot, I'm guessing.

In addition to his blood, Tendulkar is providing a sample of his saliva to be used to create his DNA profile which will then be printed on a 6' 6" gatefold in the book. I believe that falls into "value-added" territory, though what value remains unclear. I guess it'll make the book that much easier to reprint, each copy an exact duplicate to a degree never before possible and usher in an era of Clone Lit. Then again, it  may just be the most detailed author's bio ever to be found in a book, making this the ultimate autobiography.

But really, what, no sweat? No tears? For $75,000 you can keep the saliva, I want the complete holy trinity of body fluids.

I'm pleased to have this opportunity to draw attention to Red Smith. Both he and S.J. Perelman  have become somewhat forgotten and deserve all the attention they can get from readers today. Red Smith and S.J. Perelman are at the top of writer's writers lists; They were consummate craftsmen. I have learned so much from reading them. And have had so much fun. I once owned every single first edition of Perelman's books, each a collection of his short pieces for The New Yorker, etc., and each a treasure. Those unfamiliar with Red Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winner for his writing, should pick up a copy of The Red Smith Reader (New York: Randon House, 1982) NOW.

She's Into Leather*

Last week, we looked at bindings by women of the Arts & Crafts movement in the late 19th and early 20th century. This week, we look at the work of three women currently practicing the art. The binding above is by the British artist Denise Lubett. This cartographic design executed in tan and sea green morocco covers a copy of the Golden Cockerel Press' The Pilgrim Fathers, the depiction of the coastline of Massachusetts subtly alluding to the book's contents. Born in Paris in 1922, Denise Lubett studied bookbinding under John Corderoy at Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts and at the London College of Printing. She set up her own binderies in England and France in 1966. In 1971, she was elected to membership in the society of Designer Bookbinders. Three of her bindings are pictured in the catalogue for the exhibition on "Modern British Bookbinding" held in Brussels and The Hague in 1985. The binding above is more restrained than the typical Lubett design, which tends to be animated and striking in its choice of colored onlays, but, at the same time, it is at least as inventive as her best work. In the chapter she wrote for "A Bookbinder's Florilegium," she implicitly described her personal binding credo when she said that "great purity of style and design usually bring forth great beauty." She also said in the same chapter that "if we [refuse to] bind books so that they become too fragile to handle [and] . . . if we can ascertain that this bound book can be handed down for a number of generations, then we will have achieved a better and more significant role as modern bookbinders."

Bindings by women are more and more often being done in conjunction with overall book design. The bindings pictured above and below are the handiwork of book artist Susan Allix (b. 1943) and are from her "Rosas" series. Allix hands set and printed 10 of these books combining well-known poems about roses with her own illustrations, and bound each of the volumes in its own unique design. The volumes above, combining hand embroidery and inlaid morocco, reminds one of a Victorian quilt--very feminine, very domestic, and somehow cozy. The mixed media binding below, which incorporates painted mirrored inlays and a black metal rose, has a far stronger, almost aggressive air, very bold and modern. The contents are the same, but the bindings make these two very different works of art.

Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book Division at the Library of Congress, wrote of Allix's work: "her books launch you on a visual journey. Each book is a voyage propelled by color, texture, image, impression, and material. . . . Allix comes to the book by way of printmaking and papermaking. She first emerged as a printmaker, having studied at the Royal College of Art in the 1960s. Winning the Prix de Rome gave her the opportunity to live for a time in Italy. . . . After more than three decades and thirty-seven books, Allix continues to be true to her vision. Because she insists on creating the entire book--from letterpress to illustration to binding--her work has a certain recognizable aesthetic; a malleable signature that responds to the particular character of a piece, but is still unquestionably hers. Allix conceives each book visually. 'I am concerned with visual things so I see books as full of colour and form in a pictorial sense as well as through the images created in my mind by the words, and through the sculptural qualities a book possesses.' The real narrative of her books is the flow of color and image as they move throughout the piece." Her works are held in the collections of The British Library, Yale University, National Gallery of Art Washington DC, The Claremont Colleges in California, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Alberta, as well as other fine public and private collections.

The striking binding above is the work of New York artist Carol Joyce. These Trees Stand was a collaboration between poet William DeWitt Snodgrass (1926-2009), photographer Robert Mahon, binder Carol Joyce, and printer Leonard Seastone. Joyce and Seastone were involved with the Center for Book Arts in Manhattan, and a copy of this book was included in the New York Public Library's 1984 exhibition, "Center for Book Arts: The First Decade." Joyce, who received a degree in art history and studied restoration and bookbinding in Italy, specializes in unique bindings for small press books. Her design for the binding here derives from the poem's opening lines: "These trees stand very tall under the heavens. / While they stand, if I walk, all stars traverse / This steep celestial gulf their branches chart." The stark limbs against the wine-colored background might look foreboding, if not for the tiny gold stars sprinkled playfully between the branches. Snodgrass himself was quite pleased with the work, describing the binding as "exquisite" in an interview for "Contemporary Authors."

* NOTE: I would here like to thank one of our clever commenters for the inspired title. Wish I'd thought of it myself.


All images courtesy of Philliip J. Pirages Fine Books & Manuscripts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kittypalooza! The World's First Catalog Devoted To Old And Rare Books On Cats

Between The Covers, the New Jersey-based maestros of merchandising their vast inventory, has issued The Cat: A Log, a collection of old and rare books on the most popular pet in the United States, the domestic cat. It is, to the best our research, the world's first rare bookseller catalog exclusively devoted to volumes about our friends of the feline persuasion.

What is particularly noteworthy is that all of the books in the catalog are priced under $500 with the majority falling under $150. As such, it provides the novice with an excellent point of entry into the book collecting hobby. 
According to a 2007 market research report from the American Veterinary Medicine Association, approximately thirty-seven million households in the U.S. have cats, with an average of 2.2 per home. That adds up to eighty-two million cats slinking around with nothing to read.
The Cat: A Log should take care of that. If, however, the cats prove uninterested, it's likely that at least a few of the people who have eighty-two million cats in their thirty-seven million homes will find something of interest and delight.
If anyone has ever been intimidated by rare books, their collection, and cost, The Cat: A Log should provide calm, satisfaction, and a sigh of relief.
It should be pointed out Dogalog, Between The Covers' recent catalog devoted to old and rare books on canines, will provide the same comfort.
Gerbils, alas, are found in only 187,000 households in the U.S., with a total population of 431,000, one of whom, Lorenzo, is forever romantically linked with actor Richard Gere who, to this day, refuses to acknowledge the relationship. 
Spurned and heartbroken, Lorenzo carries a torch. 
Full story on TMZ.

I strongly suspect we won't be seeing Gerbilog anytime soon.

But if Between The Covers ever puts together a collection of old and rare books on the timber industry, look out for Logalog.

In the meantime, we have The Cat: A Log, catnip for cat lovers and proof positive that collecting books doesn't have to bust the budget. If you don't believe me ask your cat, who is at this moment knows exactly what's on your mind.
 "Yes, buy me some cat books or I'll hide under the bed 
and you won't see me for weeks."
The Cat: A Log can be viewed on the Between The Covers website here (scroll down and choose).

Images courtesy of Between The Covers.
Image of Lorenzo courtesy of his attorney, celebrity lawyer
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